For several years, the megayacht business appears to have been insulated from the ups and downs experienced by most boatbuilders. Thirty to 40 of these top-of-the-line vessels are built every year in the U.S., and Westport Shipyard, based on Washington’s scenic Pacific Coast, accounts for a large proportion.
“We build 16 very-high-quality yachts annually,” said Phil Purcell, Westport’s vice president. “That includes five 112-foot yachts, an equal number of 130-foot yachts, two 164-foot vessels, and four 85-footers.”
Purcell describes the market as “challenging, but steady.”
“We are not immune from the economy,” he noted. “What sets us apart is knowing our costs and delivering a predictable product from the standpoints of speed, draft, cost and delivery.
The company uses multiple shipyards across the state. “Our largest yard in Westport builds the 130-foot vessels, Hoquiam builds 112-footers, Port Angeles constructs the 164-foot yachts and La Conner builds the 85s,” Purcell added.
The company has recently expanded its cabinet shop, located at the Port Angeles yard, to 40,000 square feet, and it has a 4,100-square-foot upholstery shop.
What makes Westport different is that all of its yachts use a composite material to form the basic structure of the boat. “There are several reasons for this,” Purcell notes. “Their lighter weight makes for a faster yacht than steel or aluminum, and a composite structure isolates and absorbs sound, reducing hull and mechanical noise â€” fundamentally essential in a quality yacht.”
Westport has reduced the number of primary composite pieces to five: hull, main deckhouse, foredeck, upper deckhouse and fly bridge. The composite structure is not susceptible to rust or galvanic corrosion. And on a steel or aluminum yacht, the thousands of fasteners can work loose or cause maintenance problems.
|A typical engine room aboard a Westport 164-footer: Propulsion comes from two MTU 16V 4000 diesels rated at 3,650 hp each at 1,800 rpm linked to ZF gears. There are also American 85 hp thrusters in both bow and stern.|
Westport was established in 1964 and began, as did so many yards, as a fishing boat builder. A few commercial projects followed, but for most of its 45 years the company has been dedicated to megayachts.
In the 1990s, it shifted strategy from custom-built to series-built boats. “People who buy business jets don’t buy custom-built planes. They buy a fully engineered product designed from the beginning to be built in series,” Purcell explained. “Every piece of tooling, every step in our fabrication process has been designed, documented and tested to the last detail, all at a cost that one-off vessels can’t support.”
“Part of our success comes from our pricing structure. The price contracted for is the price you pay with no surprise, no delays and no surcharges. The price you pay is for a fully equipped yacht complete with electronics, tender, dock lines and even dinnerware and a full load of fuel.”
“The 112-foot and 130-foot models have given us the skills to raise the bar on the series concept,” Purcell said. “We have been able to refine the series methodology, continuing to raise quality and shave nonproductive hours out of the build to offer clients a firm delivery date.”
With the confidence gained from building a 130-foot yacht, Westport started looking at vessels longer than 150 feet, which is pure custom territory, and asked, “Why not?” To keep gross tonnage under 500, the vessel could be 164 feet long, which calculations showed would put final tonnage at 496.
|The full-beam owner’s suite (above) and salon (below). Owners sometimes prefer the VIP stateroom located on the bridge deck, because of the views. Westport delivers its yachts ready to go, with complete sets of linens and towels, Snap-On tools and tool boxes, and spares for the engines, gensets and even the water maker. And the tanks are full when the boat leaves the yard.|
Thus was born the 164-foot, tri-deck megayacht. The first vessel, Vango, was delivered in 2006. Since then, six more have been delivered and production is scheduled out to December 2012, which will mark the twelfth delivery â€” the next available 164-foot vessel for sale.
The superstructure of the 164-footers includes a main deck, bridge deck and sun deck.
Within the main deck is a huge full-beam owner’s suite that takes up most of the bow with two bathrooms, two walk-in closets, a conversation nook and a study. Aft, there is also a salon and a dining room with seating for 12. An island cabinet concealing a 42-inch plasma TV separates the two spaces.
Dumb waiters and wine cabinets
A pantry features a dumb waiter linked to the two upper decks and a professional-standard stainless steel galley complete with a cold room and a wine cabinet.
In the hull are five double-bunked rooms for crew along with a large mess and galley in the bow. Aft, amidships, are four en suite staterooms and the engine room. An aft garage holds a 6.5-meter tender and room for water sports gear.
Power comes from a pair of MTU 16V 4000 engines rated at 3,650 hp each. These engines feed a ZF 2.96:1 8-degree down-angle gearbox that connects to five-blade Michigan Wheel propellers. Purcell said Westport likes MTU for its global support.
Three gensets are on board, a pair of 99-kW Northern Lights units and a secondary/night set, a Northern Lights 55-kW model. All AC power, including shore power, is routed through the master switchboard; the boat also has a 24-volt DC power system via batteries and battery chargers that is used for engine starting and for emergency lighting throughout the vessel.
The 164 has two thrusters, bow and stern, both 20-inch, 85 hp. Fuel capacity is 20,000 gallons (initial fill up courtesy of Westport), with 2,000 gallons of fresh water and a 1,500-gallon holding tank. Maximum speed is 24 knots with a 20-knot cruising speed. At 12 knots, range is 5,200 nautical miles.
One of the top features of the yacht is a VIP stateroom, located on the bridge deck and outfitted with a VIP bathroom. Owners often prefer it to the master suite because of the views.
The megayacht’s acoustic package pays special attention to noise from machinery, including the compressors for the walk-in freezer and refrigerators. Sound levels are in the 30s when the vessel is at rest, equivalent to a suburban bedroom at night. At cruise, the decibel meter barely climbs above 50 in the salon.
Navigation and communications equipment aboard the 164-footers include satellite-based position, speed and heading information, gyroscopic and magnetic heading data, long-range surface detection, electronic charting and depth finding. A Global Maritime Distress and Safety System communications suite maximizes contact with shoreside and marine stations.
All accommodation spaces are connected to a master audio/video system with several satellite-based entertainment choices as well as dockside cable service. A five-camera, closed-circuit TV system covers the engine room, aft deck and port and starboard side decks.
The total price for the complete vessel due for delivery in 2012 will be $37,750,000. Westport has been building two 164-footers a year and reports that some of its sales have gone to owners stepping up from smaller Westport vessels purchased only a few years ago. The resale market, handled through Westport’s office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is strong.
|Dining in style aboard the Westport 164-footers. The yachtbuilder took the lessons learned from its 112- and 130-footers and applied them to its larger boats.|
Purcell summed up Westport’s business philosophy this way: “Since 1964, Westport has taken a long-term view of the future and has invested heavily in people, design, naval architecture, infrastructure, engineering and proven technologies to secure our position at the forefront on the industry.
“The megayacht market is truly worldwide,” he said. “Many of our biggest competitors are outside of the U.S., and so are many of our customers.”
Westport sees global potential in other areas, too. “We usually have something in one of the yards that is not a megayacht,” Purcell said. “Right now we are building a 43-meter global response cutter for worldwide military applications.” â€¢